Repairs have just begun on Clinton State Park’s North Shore Trails that were damaged April 18 at the Kansas City Trail Nerds’ Free State Trail Runs, and today a decision was made to ensure similar repairs would not be necessary at Lake Perry. Trail Nerds owner Ben Holmes was scheduled to play host to the Rock On Lake Perry 50K, half marathon and 5K at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Branded B Ranch in Meriden, Kansas. Two straight days of rain have fallen, however, and with more in the forecast each day through the weekend Holmes was prompted to post the following message today announcing the race’s postponement to May 16. Two and a half weeks ago, Holmes drew harsh criticism for his decision not to postpone the Free State Trail Runs or use an alternate course when a thunderstorm was looming that had been in the forecast for days leading up to the event. It was dry at the start, but rain began pouring about an hour into the event, and approximately 20 miles of trail were damaged – some sections severely. The decision to postpone Rock On Lake Perry was made in conjunction with the Kansas Trails Council. The Kansas Trails Council played a lead role in developing the repair plan for Clinton State Park, which KTC estimates will take more than 1,200 volunteer hours. The forecast during the next few days does not bode well for trail repair efforts that were scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at Clinton State Park. Neither work day has been canceled yet, but organizers will seek guidance from the KTC’s Neil Taylor and Mike Goodwin regarding whether those should be canceled, too.
The plan to repair the damaged North Shore Trails at Clinton State Park was released on Tuesday. On Saturday, the plan officially transitioned into action.
The Kansas Trails Council presented two, two-hour trail maintenance courses Saturday at the Corps of Engineers Visitor Center Office near the entrance to the state park. The training courses kicked off the repair effort after approximately 20 of the 23 miles of North Shore Trails were damaged April 18 during the Kansas City Trail Nerds’ Free State Trail Runs.
The training courses, which were led by KTC’s Neil Taylor and Mike Goodwin, were an abbreviated version of trail-building training based on International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) sustainable trail-building standards. The courses provided an overview of how trails are built, the thought processes that go into them, and the processes that must be followed to gain appropriate trail-building approvals.
The main emphasis, however, was on training volunteers to lead work crews that will repair the damage done to the trails since they will only be repairing trails, not building new ones. The primary skills emphasized were tamping, deberming, and how to identify proper placement of “knicks” to help water drain off the trail.
Participants were introduced to the tools that will be utilized for trail repairs, and they were instructed on proper safety when using those tools.
Taylor said the first bit of trail repair was done Friday with a group of 10 volunteers from Westar Energy. Based on that group’s pace of trail repair, Taylor estimated the full repair effort at Clinton State Park would take more than 1,200 volunteer hours.
Taylor noted that the North Shore Trails have sustained considerable damage in the past from other events, and they have been repaired.
In recent days, Taylor has struck an optimistic tone about the ability to repair the damage again this time. He echoed those sentiments Saturday after 41 members of the trail-running and mountain biking community turned up for the courses.
“The biggest difference between this event and past events is that you guys showed up,” he said during the second training session. “That’s huge.”
Those in attendance were taught the basic fundamentals necessary to lead trail repair teams.
Just hours after attending the training course, volunteers are putting their training into action.
The first repair hours have been recorded in the official log for checking out maintenance equipment. In addition, two veteran trail-runners from the first training course, Danny Loenthal and Travis Kierre, have scheduled trail repair days for May 10 and May 17 and are actively recruiting crews.
In addition, the Lawrence Trail Hawks – whose Shoreline Shuffle trail race May 2 was moved to an alternate course as a result of the trail damage – are actively supporting the repair efforts. They have scheduled a trail-building course with Goodwin at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 9, which will be followed promptly by an organized work day.
Details about upcoming trail-building classes and trail repair days at Clinton State Park are included below. These will be updated as more information becomes available.
Trail Maintenance Class
May 9 – 9 a.m. – Corps of Engineers Visitor Center (30 seats total), organized by the Lawrence Trail Hawks (email Gary Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP)
Trail Repair Days and Leaders
May 9 – 11 a.m. – Lawrence Trail Hawks (contact Gary Henry to RSVP)
May 10 – 8 a.m. – Danny Loenthal (RSVP on the Trail Nerds’ Facebook page)
May 17 – 10 a.m. – Travis Kierre (RSVP on the Trail Nerds’ Facebook page)
The seventh annual Shoreline Shuffle took on a first-of-a-kind look this year when it transformed into the Skyline Shuffle.
The alternate course, which was a dual-traverse of Bunker Hill, was made necessary due to trail damage. Instead of rugged single-track, this year’s event was a throwback cross country race.
I’d forgotten how tough it can be to run on grass, with the soft surface sapping some of the spring out of the legs and longer grass catching the toes if knees aren’t lifted enough. At the same time, it’s easier to run the downhill sections with reckless abandon knowing that if you lose control and take a tumble then there’s soft grass to pad your landing.
Skyline was my first trail 5K since Mud & Muck in 2010 (26:10.5), and first race at all of that distance since the Kansas City Heart and Stroke 5K on the Plaza last May (23:18.6). I’m stronger now than I was at those races, and my tolerance for suffering is better, too. I needed that this time.
I started a bit too fast and was around seventh or eighth before quickly slipping back to 10th, but managed to sustain the pace after getting up and over Bunker Hill the first time. I constantly reminded myself to pick up my knees and control my breathing, which were critical for staying in a rhythm and working my way back up to eighth. The final six tenths of a mile were kindly downhill, which was a welcome relief for my legs – and also had a friendly impact on my finishing time.
Kudos to first-time race directors Josh McVey and Matt O’Reilly for putting on a fun, well organized event. Also, Kudos to Grant Holmes for a hard-earned victory. Cross country is still as tough as I remember it from high school, but I’ll happily run this course again.
BY THE NUMBERS
My Place: 8th
My Finishing Time: 22:50
Total Finishers: 77
Winning Time: 18:35 (Grant Holmes)
A week of sunny skies and warm temperatures has done plenty to help dry out the trails at Clinton State Park in Lawrence. In fact, enough drying took place that the park re-opened the trails for public use by midweek.
The warm trend is slated to continue Saturday with partly cloudy skies and 80-degree temperatures in the forecast. That’s good news for those interested in the trail repair efforts set to get under way after the trails were badly damaged on April 18 during the Free State Trail Runs, an event presented by the Kansas City Trail Nerds on Clinton Lake’s North Shore Trail System.
A thunderstorm during the event turned the dry trails into a muddy mess, and in the nearly two weeks since the event some parts of the trail system have struggled to drain and water has pooled in the holes left by runners’ footprints.
The repair effort is scheduled to begin in earnest on Saturday. Two trail-building courses will be taught, one at 9 a.m. and another at 11 a.m., at the Corps of Engineers Visitor Center Office, 872 N. 1042 Rd. Neil Taylor and Mike Goodwin of the Kansas Trails Council will teach the two-hour sessions, which will include about 90 minutes in the classroom and 30 minutes on the trail.
A more detailed look at the plan can be found here:
Interest in the training courses was extensive, and sign-ups came quickly once they were announced. Trail-runners interested in the course have encountered a dead end today, however, as the Trail Nerds’ official Facebook page has been inaccessible for most of the day.
The page’s inaccessibility is a bit of an ironic twist. In the aftermath of the Free State Trail Races, numerous page members were kicked out of the group. Some were booted for combative dialogue regarding the damage done to the trails at Clinton State Park, while others were blackballed for posting information about how to get involved with trail building, and even more were removed for “liking” posts that discussed trail repair. A handful were allowed back in eventually, but most have remained stricken. Now, on the eve of the first trail-building courses, the entire group is offline.
Although the Facebook page is down, the link to sign up for the trail-building courses is still active. Registration is free, and can be done at the following link:
The Kansas Trails Council on Monday released details of the plan to repair the damaged trail system at Clinton State Park in Lawrence.
The plan was announced nine days after the Kansas City Trail Nerds played host to the Free State Trail Runs on April 18 at the park. The event, which took place on the North Shore Trails, included a half marathon, marathon, 40-mile run and 100K run. Approximately 250 runners participated, some who ran two or three laps of the course.
Conditions were dry when the event began, but an early thunderstorm soaked the trails. The races continued, and a majority of the trail system was mangled by the time the 17-hour event concluded.
Members of the wide-ranging trail-using community have been vocal in their demands for accountability after around 20 miles of trail were damaged. The Trail Nerds organization faces no fines for the damage caused by its event, however it is expected to play a large role in the repair effort.
Neil Taylor, Clinton Lake System Coordinator for the Kansas Trails Council, sounded an optimistic tone when I spoke to him about the plan Monday morning.
“We have had damage like this in the past from other promoters,” Taylor said. “We have been able to repair and move on.”
Ben Holmes, Kansas City Trail Nerds owner and race director of the Free State Trail Runs, met with Taylor from the KTC and Clinton State Park interim Director Bruce Husman on Friday to discuss the damage and develop the foundation of a two-phased plan. Details were fine-tuned throughout the weekend.
Phase one of the plan focuses on repairing the trails. It places a heavy emphasis on training new trail-builders to be able to lead work crews. Volunteers can take two-hour training courses where they will be instructed in International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) sustainable trail-building standards.
There will be both scheduled and unscheduled workdays, meaning that in addition to scheduled events volunteers also will have access to trail-building tools if they choose to perform repair work in their free time.
“Basically, the plan is to have people that want to do trail work to team up with an IMBA-trained volunteer/leader, and work on planned and unplanned trail work days,” Holmes wrote on the Trail Nerds’ Facebook page. “The park will keep some Kansas Trails Council tools (to loan out), with a large map of where work needs to be done. When the work is done, the tools will be returned and the work quantified and accounted for on the map.”
According to the KTC press release:
“Unfortunately, because the trail damage is so widespread and significant, the repair cannot be accomplished on a few organized Saturday workdays. Instead, the repair will require an ongoing effort of hundreds of hours over the next several months. Recognizing that most trail users do not have access to trail building tools, we are in the process of setting up a cache of hand tools and developing a system to check out and return tools and to monitor the repair work as it progresses.
Prior to beginning the repair work, volunteers will be asked to attend a short training workshop to insure that the trail repair meets sustainable trail building standards and that the tools are safely used. After the workshop, volunteers can then work on their own schedules. The KTC will monitor the quality of repair and report on the progress in the coming months.”
The training workshops will take place at the Corps of Engineers Visitor Center Office, 872 N. 1042 Rd., in the park. The first two sessions are at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Saturday, May 2. Those interested can sign up here: http://www.enter2run.com/search/event.aspx?id=32930 (I will be at the 11 a.m. session).
Taylor and Mike Goodwin, also of the KTC, will teach the courses.
Taylor has been building and maintaining trails in Lawrence for 20 years, first as a founding member of the Lawrence Mountain Bike Club and then with the KTC. He said he hopes the training courses and trail repair work educate a new wave of trail volunteers that can have a long-term positive impact on the community.
He also is confident that the damaged trail can be successfully repaired.
“With the amount of people that contacted me, including several local organizations, I think we are going to have a ton of manpower,” he said. “So if everything goes right with the weather, equipment, and things like that, I think we can be done by the end of next month.”
While phase one of the plan is focused on repair, phase two is about prevention.
Taylor said the KTC will work with Clinton State Park and the Army Corps of Engineers examine current protocol for holding events and make changes where needed, including addressing when to require alternate courses be used and the possible cancellation of events.
COMMENTARY: “TRAILABAN” REFERENCE HINDERS HEALING
While a plan is now in place to help heal the damaged trails at Clinton State Park, the greater Kansas City trail-using community is focusing on healing, too.
A social media firestorm in the aftermath of the Free State Trail Runs pitted members of various trail-using groups against each other, and even saw runner-on-runner outrage. As tensions calmed, many called for reconciliation and unity. The healing has been visible in a number of ways, from direct outreach between groups, to trail-runners and mountain bikers teaming up to build trails, to improved civil discourse. Still, there is a long way to go.
In a Facebook post Sunday, Holmes made a plea for the trail community to try to “move on in a positive direction, TOGETHER.”
Earlier in that same post, however, Holmes lashed out at those who had made critical posts in reaction to the race not being canceled and the trails being damaged. He referred to them as “The Trailaban” for being “uncompromising with their bikes-only or running-only or equine-only ideology.” The “Trailaban” reference was an apparent play on the Taliban, whom the United States military fought for more than a decade in Afghanistan. Those people were blocked from the site because their comments got out of hand, he claimed.
The claim was partly false, however, as a thorough review of the comments made and people blocked showed that many who Holmes lumped into his “Trailaban” made non-confrontational comments, supported trail repair efforts, or – in the case of Urban Trail Co. president Ben Reed – only posted information detailing how to contact the group to get involved. Others did not post a single comment and only “liked” a status. That was the case for a military mom whose son served in the United States Army in Afghanistan and came under frequent mortar fire from the Taliban.
Holmes has yet to remove the “Trailaban” reference despite being called out by a long-time trail steward, event promoter, and KTC member. (*editor’s note: this sentence was amended to clarify that the “Trailaban” reference remains on the site as of 10:56 a.m. Tuesday. The original version said it had been removed.)
The divisive tone may hinder the repairs to Clinton State Park, and it certainly hinders our trail-using community’s ability to heal and move forward.
That word does not imply “positive” or “TOGETHER.” It is divisive, destructive to the community, and pushes away good people who have a considerable amount of experience building trails, leading work crews, and teaching trail-building skills to new volunteers. Those are resources that would be valuable to have in the weeks and months ahead. Our community needs to expect better.
Most of these guys looked familiar, but at first I couldn’t place it.
Bike stickers on their cars – and an actual mountain bike – soon gave it away, though. I’ve crossed paths with these guys on the trails – them on bike and me on foot.
Today, though, we were there for a different sort of workout. There was dirt to move; rock to carry and put into place; trail to build.
The Trail Masons, a trail-building group at Wyandotte County Lake Park that was founded by trail-runner Jim Megerson and mountain bikers Cliff Jones and Shane Jones around six years ago, have built all of the single-track trails on the east side of the park. Basically, if it’s not a bridle trail then the Trail Masons probably built it.
The Trail Masons are not a mountain bike group, although a majority of their trail-builders happen to prefer taking the trails on two wheels rather than two feet. Today, they welcomed some trail-building newbies from the trail-running community, taught us a few easy tactics, and then we worked together to bench a new section of trail behind Shelter 9 and turn it into a single-track rock garden.
The entire section covered maybe .05 of a mile, and a crew of 15 people built it in three hours. It’s not finalized yet – the rocks in the rock garden will need a chance to settle, and then some touch-up work will take place – but the small new section is going to be a nice new treat for trail-users.
While sipping post-work beers, Cliff pointed out that a runner would cover the new section in maybe 30 seconds and a biker would go through it in 15 seconds. It provided me with a dose of perspective about how much volunteer effort has gone into building these trails that I enjoy running so much. Today’s group was considerably larger than work days tend to attract, and our team effort built just a tiny piece of the trail system.
I found it fascinating to watch the more experienced trail-builders identify the ride and run lines into the new section of trail. The thought that goes into what I’ve always taken for granted is impressive. There is considerable creativity that goes into the planning, with the hopes that what is built will bring deep enjoyment to all of us who use it.
What I enjoyed most was the sense of personal fulfillment that I felt during and after putting in the work to “earn my dirt.” I absolutely can’t wait to go run through this new segment of trail. I hope it sneaks up on me so I can feel surprised when I see it.
I also enjoyed taking time to actually get to know some of the guys who I’ve crossed paths with on the trails. There were a lot of good dudes with a great sense of humor and a vision for what is being built at WyCo. They’re happy to teach newcomers how to build, and they’re happy to share beers once the work is done.
Today wasn’t a lazy Sunday. Instead, it was an incredibly satisfying Sunday filled with good people, good dirt and good times.
INTERESTED IN HELPING BUILD TRAILS?
Join the Facebook pages for the Trail Masons, Urban Trail Co., and Earthriders Mountain Bike Club to find work day postings. I’m sure there are others, but these are the pages I am following at the moment.
A week has passed since the Free State Trail Races, and the trails of Clinton State Park have not healed.
I have confirmed with the Kansas Trails Council that a meeting has taken place to develop a plan to repair the trails after they were mangled when a thunderstorm soaked the trails after the races began. The KTC will announce those plans soon, and as soon as they are announced they will be reported on this site.
Additionally, reporting on the trail repair effort at Clinton State Park will take place on this site, so stay tuned. There is plenty of repair work to be done.
A brief reconnaissance of the trail damage today, April 25, provided a glimpse into the work that lies ahead. Portions of the trail that I observed that more naturally drain and have rocks mixed in with the dirt are in decent shape. A majority of the portions observed revealed varying levels of devastation.
Some parts of the trail are noticeably wider from the foot traffic, apparently where runners tried to avoid areas that had become trashed, ultimately ripping up the trail’s edges.
Some portions of previously smooth single-track now appear to have been trampled by horses. Picture the Wyandotte County Lake Park bridle trails when horses have gone through after a thunderstorm, and the resemblance is similar.
Water is pooled in some of the foot holes, incapable of running off and extending opportunities for extended damage.
If you click on the photos below you can view larger, more close-up versions to get a better idea of the current conditions.
There is a lot of work to be done, and it’s not just going to go away on its own. It’s going to take time; it’s going to take people; and it’s going to take effort. Be on the lookout for more details soon.
The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism held the 31st annual Clinton Lake Community Cleanup on Saturday at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Park.
Nearly 20 Lawrence Trail Hawks and their family members represented the trail-running community and encompassed more than half of the event volunteers. The group picked up trash, much of it from behind the boat docks, an even removed the remnants of a collapsed picnic table from the woods while cleaning up approximately four miles of trail.
Woody, the park mascot, also made an appearance to thank the Trail Hawks for their service.
I have a confession to make: I used to hop the gate at Shawnee Mission Park to run the trails when they were closed. Not all the time, mind you. If the trails were a soupy, soggy mess then running was not a consideration, but if they were simply damp then I’d take a look around to ensure no park rangers were present, and then slip past the gate and head down the trail. If the ground was simply tacky and didn’t stick to the soles of my shoes, I’d keep on going. If my feet sunk in, then I’d bail out of the woods and opt for the pavement instead.
The gates at the trailhead really were closed to keep the mountain bikes off the trail… at least that’s the rationale I told myself. It sounded like a good excuse, even if it wasn’t honest. It was behavior that I learned from others as a trail newbie, and it let me get away with doing what I wanted to do. I told myself I was really being a responsible trail user; mountain bikers who hopped the gates and left muddy treads were doing the real damage.
I don’t hop the gate anymore, and I haven’t in a few years. During my nearly five years in the sport I’ve seen some of the damage that I’ve caused, and I’m disappointed in myself. I run there now and see the erosion on the Violet Trail, and it makes me sad because I know I probably caused some of it. I’m thankful that wiser, more experienced trail-running friends – some of them who built the very trails that I love running on throughout the city – have educated me about the amount of time that volunteers spend building and maintaining the trails. They’ve educated me about how the type of soil we have in Kansas is different from other places, thus it is more easily damaged. They’ve taught me how to be a more responsible trail-user, and I’ve been able to absorb that knowledge and grow from it by putting my pride aside and not being too damn stubborn to admit that I can sometimes be the problem.
I’ve also done a trail work day at Clinton State Park, so I’ve put some sweat equity into those trails and learned that it’s not as easy as it looks. Far more, I’ve frequently seen trail maintenance volunteers – mostly mountain bikers – out working on the trails while I’m enjoying my Saturday long run. I make a point of telling them “thank you” as I pass by because I realize their volunteer efforts are allowing me to enjoy my passion.
I’d like to think that I’ve come full circle as a trail-runner, having transitioned from doing as I please while blaming trail damage on the mountain bikers, to becoming someone who stays off the trails when they’re sloppy, chats with mountain bikers on the trails, and readily acknowledges that the bikers put in far more maintenance work than the runners. But the reality is that I can do a whole lot more. I can volunteer my time and sweat to trail work, and I can do a much better job of communicating with other branches of the broader Kansas City trail community. Saying hi and telling a mountain biker to “have a good ride” as our paths cross is polite, but it isn’t exactly a deep conversation full of substance and understanding.
That lack of meaningful communication between trail-runners, mountain bikers, and other trail users is a problem. It has been a lingering problem within the Kansas City trail-using community since before I started running the trails, and last weekend it was the worst that I’ve ever seen. A storm has been quietly brewing for a long time, and in the aftermath of Saturday’s Free State Trail Runs at Clinton State Park it finally erupted in a way that was far more destructive to the community than it was to the trails that were so badly damaged.
Our community is in crisis mode now. How we respond to it will have a profound impact on the future of trail relations and all trail activities in the area. Regardless of our activity of choice, all of our respective trail user groups are to blame for this in some way, and we all bear some personal responsibility for it, including me.
The question now is whether we’re finally ready to grow up, expect better of ourselves, work together, and treat each other with genuine respect?
The Clinton trails were badly trashed on Saturday at the Free State Trail Runs. That’s not debatable. The destruction was unintentional, and it is important to recognize that the trails were dry and rain was not falling when the races began. A storm popped up mid-race, with runners already scattered throughout the 20-mile loop. If runners had been pulled from the course at that point, the trails would still have sustained damage – maybe not as much, but arguing about that at this point is a waste of oxygen. What’s done is done.
The race continued, and the trail conditions continued to deteriorate beyond recognition in some parts.
It must have become apparent quickly that a huge effort would become necessary to repair the trails. From various reports, during and after crossing the finish line numerous runners at Saturday’s race talked amongst themselves about what they could do to repair the damage that was done. They cared about what had happened, and they wanted to be a part of the solution.
That effort would require the man-power and woman-power of the massive Kansas City trail-running community, and it also would need the experienced leadership and instruction of mountain bikers and other trail users who do the bulk of the trail maintenance, possess the most tools, and can best instruct on proper trail-building technique. In short, a unified effort was necessary.
Instead of communication and unity, however, some people turned to social media and let their true colors shine. An inferno of distrust between trail-users was unleashed.
Our community’s dirty little secret was out of the box and on full fiery display.
The Free State Trail Runs were not yet complete when the social media venom started flying. It began with a passionate but civil inquiry about the plan for repairing the damaged Clinton trails. It was met with positive responses – at first – with runners inquiring about opportunities to donate time and/or money to the repair effort.
Civility didn’t last long, however. It quickly deteriorated into a quagmire of angry mountain bikers finger-pointing at runners; defensive runners dismissing the accusatory language; runner-on-runner shouting matches; and a few out-of-town runners who don’t know our dirt or care about our trails (some of them; not all, of course) insinuating that protecting trail quality is a sign of personal weakness.
There were even threats of physical violence between individuals should they cross paths on the trail in the future. It was shameful, disgraceful, and embarrassing.
Sweeping generalizations about entire groups put everybody on the defensive against each other as all sorts of good, well-intentioned people were labeled as destructive, insensitive vandals. Some who claimed to want to repair the trails gave their target audience plenty of reasons to stay away.
Some people pleaded for civility, but most were met with snark.
Many long-time trail stewards, some who built much of Kansas City’s trail system weighed in on Facebook with concern and constructive input. Others didn’t post anything but “liked” a constructive comment. Most of them soon found themselves kicked out of the Kansas City Trail Nerds’ Facebook group – myself included.
I reached out to Ben Holmes, the Free State Trail Runs race director, Trail Nerds boss and moderator of the Facebook page to inquire why, and I was told it was accidental. I was promptly reinstated, although others have not been, which I’ve made clear isn’t helpful as it silences important voices and creates unnecessary division in our community at a time when unity is needed most.
I was informed of vandalism to Ben’s vehicle, and that he received threats after the race. That’s disturbing to think about, but given the tone of some individuals on social media, it’s not hard to believe. Such behavior is damaging to our greater community. Ben deserves better that; we all do.
What was lacking during all of the weekend uproar was respectful discourse. It seemed nobody took a moment to put their rage aside and try to understand the circumstances of what happened, why it happened, and how it could be fixed. Everyone had a right to be upset, but not to be disrespectful.
Runners were blamed, yet it was not raining when the race began. Volunteers were blamed – as though it would be acceptable to abandon their post and put others in danger. Ben was blamed, yet few of us are willing to bear the pressures of being a race director, and even fewer of us would want to be faced with halting an event once it was well under way. That’s not a burden I’d want to bear, and I can’t honestly tell you what my decision would have been had I been in his shoes.
Discourse can be difficult. It requires us to actually talk to each other, try to understand each other, show respect for each other – and maybe even work together. While difficult, discourse is a far more effective tool than joining the Facebook lynch mob. It doesn’t solve anything. It just adds kindling to what ultimately will become a raging bonfire.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO COME TOGETHER – IF WE DON’T SCREW IT UP
Amid all of the ugliness that was unleashed following the Free State Trail Runs, there is a flicker of opportunity in our community. It’s hard to fathom such negative discourse could spark such glimmering hope, but it’s there if we choose to capitalize.
I’m talking about all of us trail-users.
The trails that have been damaged can be repaired if we put in the time to fix them. In that same vein, our damaged trail-using community doesn’t have to erode away. We can fix it if we all work together, and that is starting to happen.
As the social media blaze has smoldered and the heat has cooled, the last 72 to 96 hours have seen more discourse between the trail-user groups than I can recall witnessing ever before. Some of it has taken place on social media, but much of it is happening offline via email or actual human-to-human conversation. Imagine that!
The Lawrence Trail Hawks are in discussions with the Kansas Trails Council and have volunteers lined up and ready to work on the Clinton trails once KTC sounds the horn. Ben Holmes said he has a meeting set up with KTC and the Park Director at Clinton State Park to ensure the Trail Nerds do their part to repair the damage. Cliff Jones from the Trail Masons has coordinated a work day this Sunday at Wyandotte County Lake Park, and a few trail-runners have answered the call to “earn their dirt.”
I’m also seeing more inquiries than ever before from people wanting to know where trail work day notices are posted and if they can be better cross-promoted across trail-use groups because so many folks want to give back.
Last weekend opened a lot of eyes to some of the negativity that has been hidden within our community, but it gave us a tremendous opportunity to rally. I am incredibly encouraged that so many folks seem intent on not wasting this moment.
We all have a role to play in this, and it starts with treating each other better.
Ask yourself: Why do you run? Why do you ride? Why do you hike? What is it that draws you to the trails? If you participate in trail maintenance, what is it that you love about manipulating the dirt into a sustainable source of outdoor adventure?
What is your true motivation?
Chances are, your answers are very similar to just about everybody else out in the woods who shares the trails with you. That can be a powerful bond, and it can be a tremendous opportunity to do a whole lot of good. Let’s stop screwing it up.
We all can do better.
The downside of the Kansas City trails being in freeze-thaw mode all winter long is that most of my winter running got pushed inside to the dreaded treadmill, but the benefit of that – I’ve believed – is that it made me faster.
Last weekend’s snow, followed by this weekend’s 60- and 70-degree temperatures, meant that all of the area trails were again closed with the hope that runners and riders would respect the trails’ need to dry out without getting trashed.
I signed up Friday night before crawling into bed, and then had a lazy pre-race Saturday with little more than an easy three-miler around the neighborhood to keep the legs loose.
Given that I signed up 36 hours before race time, there wasn’t any training plan for this. In fact, I haven’t had a real training plan for any race since over-booking my race schedule in 2013. The approach of building a strong mileage base and then just winging races has worked out OK. I had my biggest January/February mileage ever this year and ran a 20-mile long run a couple weekends ago, so my base is good.
My race approach was simple: trust my base, and don’t burn out early.
I woke up at 6:30 this morning, had a quick shower and downed a cup of coffee and bowl of oatmeal. I made the easy drive to Kemper Arena and arrived 45 minutes early in order to avoid unnecessary stress and have time to warm up. After a little stretching and an easy mile to get the legs warm, it was time to start.
We headed out of the Kemper parking lot and ventured north through the West Bottoms for about three quarters of a mile before working our way back south and behind Kemper. The first mile and a half was completely flat until heading up the American Royal Drive ramp to Cesar Chavez Ave., where we crossed over the railroad tracks before cruising a nice downhill on Allen Ave., which led onto Southwest Blvd. and into the Crossroads Arts District. A quick loop by the Freight House restaurants and then up past Town Topic took us back onto Southwest Blvd. and all the way back to Kemper.
I maintained a fairly consistent pace through all of that, with my miles ranging between 7:27 and 7:54. I focused on picking up my knees rather than doing the ultra-shuffle that I’ve become accustomed to. That made a big difference. I also carried my hand-held Amphipod bottle, which I believe made me the only runner in the field to carry a water bottle rather than utilizing the aid stations (my trail-running influence at work).
The gradual climb up Allen Ave. to Caesar Chavez was the final hill on the course, and it led to a refreshingly fast trip back down the American Royal Drive ramp that allowed me to build some momentum that I was able to ride for another quarter-mile.
My calves felt wobbly for the final three quarters of a mile but the flat terrain made it manageable, and I tapped into my ultra-running experience to remind myself that the pace was fine and my legs could handle it for a little bit longer and push to the finish line.
All in all, the race was a resounding success to kick off the 2015 race season. It marked my first race for the Honey Stinger Hive, I nailed a strong personal-best time for the distance, and I got to take a two-legged tour of part of our beautiful city on an unexpectedly warm late-winter day. I hope this is a sign of things to come this year!
Honey Stinger Cherry Cola Chews
Age Group: 18/38
Time: 47:43 – A new personal best
Old PR: 49:57 at Pilgrim Pacer 10K on Nov. 13, 2010
Elevation Gain: 171 ft.
Elevation Loss: 144 ft.
Weather: mid-40s at the start; low 50s at the finish.
Mile 1: 7:27.7
Mile 2: 7:54.9
Mile 3: 7:38.9
Mile 4: 7:56.1
Mile 5: 7:40.8
Mile 6: 7:35.5
Final .2: 1:32.2